Former soldier with post-traumatic stress disorder helps other Diggers conquer the Kokoda Track

A FORMER soldier diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder is helping fellow Diggers defeat their demons of war by walking the Kokoda Trail.

Dane Christison, who wound up with post-traumatic-stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression and alcohol addiction after serving in Iraq and East Timor, plans to guide a group of soldiers and veterans battling similar issues on the Kokoda Trail in August.

Mr Christison, from Aspley in Brisbane’s north, went into a “very dark place” after returning from Iraq in 2005 where he worked as a forward scout on the front line. After years of mood swings and irrational, often violent behaviour, he was finally officially diagnosed with PTSD in 2009. Having found physical exercise and goal-setting had improved his own mental and emotional well-being, he set up in 2011 a health and fitness program to help fellow veterans.

Mr Christison has been nominated for a Care and Compassion Medal in News Queensland’s Pride of Australia medal for his work.

Many veterans diagnosed with mental illnesses after returning from war zones traumatised or simply struggling to adjust from military to civilian life have too often overlooked a more holistic approach to managing their illness, he said.

“Basically I worked on small, achievable goals both physically and mentally each day for years until one day it led to what I saw as a massive achievement,” Mr Christison explained. “I had control of my life again and so I worked out how not to just survive with PTSD, but thrive. It’s a permanent condition, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to suffer forever.”

Mr Christison said he believed Kokoda would be the perfect vehicle for soldiers and veterans to fight their demons, regain some self-belief and rebuild their lives.

“Kokoda represents overcoming the adversity of mental and physical struggles and is a true testament to the resilience of the Australian,” he said.

“Its history is the perfect place for a veteran who has lost self-confidence and self-esteem. Even the lead-up training has given so many broken souls a goal again and a zest for life, using small, achievable goals that finally weigh up to a massive achievement.”

Mr Christison said his group of 10 soldiers and veterans had a range of health issues including PTSD, depression, anxiety and alcohol abuse. While Brisbane-based fitness training institution Onfit Training College had helped with sponsorship of the trip, Mr Christison was still seeking sponsorship to get all 10 of the soldiers on the expedition. For info go to


Pilot Partnership Article Release by RSL Queensland: 



Veterans struggling with transition and mental health issues will be able to access online peer-to-peer support through a new pilot partnership from RSL Queensland and Survive to Thrive Nation.

The pilot will enable veterans to access the Post War: Survive to Thrive personal development coaching program.

RSL Queensland General Manager Scott Denner said Survive to Thrive provided a valuable forum for veterans to build resilience and regain control of their lives.

“A significant difference with the Survive to Thrive program is that it has been developed by a veteran to address the issues he was facing in his own life,” Mr Denner said.

“There is sometimes a perception among veterans that civilian health professionals cannot understand what they are going through, but they can recognise the military mindset that underlies the Survive to Thrive program.

“As well as providing personal development coaching, Survive to Thrive allows veterans to connect with others who have been through similar experiences and come out the other side.”

“It is also a great option for veterans who are living in rural or remote areas, who may have limited access to face-to-face support programs,” Mr Denner said.

He said an independent evaluation by the Gallipoli Medical Research Foundation (GMRF) indicated that veterans experienced positive outcomes after participating in the program, particularly if combined with clinical therapies.

Survive to Thrive founder and former infantry soldier Dane Christison said he had developed the program after suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) himself.

“I began clinical treatment, but I found the courses and programs were tailored for civilians; they didn’t answer the questions I had,” Mr Christison said.

“It wasn’t until I stopped blaming everyone else and took back the power for my own recovery that I began to see how I could move forward.

“Survive to Thrive teaches participants to accept their situation but not tolerate it. We give them the training structure and tools to allow them to take control of their own recovery and boost their wellbeing, confidence and self-esteem.”

Former Army bomb disposal technician Corey Stamp said Survive to Thrive had made a big difference in his life since he discharged two years ago.

“It was what I needed when I got out,” Mr Stamp said.

“I had a breakdown after my first tour of Afghanistan in 2010 but I wanted to go back so I just suppressed everything I was feeling.

“To a certain extent, Defence provides a safety blanket – losing that, combined with losing the routine and all my mates was a real shock to the system.

“Survive to Thrive gave me back the structure that I was missing from Defence, as well as giving me the strength to take ownership of what I was going through and to stop playing the victim,” he said.

Mr Denner said through the pilot program, RSL would provide licences to eligible veterans who might not otherwise be able to afford the program.

“Veterans will get ongoing 24/7 access to the Survive to Thrive portal, including eight coaching modules and an online support group where participants encourage, inspire and motivate each other.”

For more information: